Sunday, December 13, 2009

New to Gluten-Free?

That's a photo of one of Megan's adorable pup's, Dexter.

My good friend Megan has been thinking about going gluten-free for awhile and has recently decided that she's ready to give it a try. Her symptoms sound similar to many individuals who are gluten-intolerant: stomach troubles, and overall "blah" feeling and tiredness (chime in here Megan if you want to add anything). She inspired me to write up a brief email with my tips on going gluten-free, so here they are:

This is not a complete list, but it’ll be a good start. I will add to it as ideas pop into my head….

First off, a definition: Gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley and rye.

Where it can be hidden: soy sauce (most soy sauce is made with wheat but you can buy San Jay soy sauce that is gluten free and low sodium), in sauces (some are thickened with wheat flour), potato chips (read all labels, some flavors have gluten in them), even corn chips (made sure they’re made with 100% corn), deli meat (Boar’s Head is 100% GF I think, and Jennie O’s is too)

At the grocery store:

If you want to keep it really simple, eat whole foods, or in other words, nothing that is prepared, canned, jarred, etc. Only eating fruits, vegetables, dairy, eggs and meat (you’re basically shopping on the “outside” aisles of the grocery store) means you will be free from any type of gluten. However, that gets boring quickly. So below you’ll find some foods at the regular grocery store that are gluten free…

Corn tortillas are your friend. I buy a huge pack of them (check the ingredients to make sure they are 100% corn) and use them for tons of things: “buns” for burgers, I’ll make pb and j roll ups out of them, quesadillas work well too. I throw them on my George Foreman-like grill for about 30 seconds and it makes them very pliable. Rice Chex are awesome (try the Cinnamon flavor) they are tasty for breakfast or as a dessert. Blue Diamond Nut Thins or Mary’s Gone Crackers I’ve found in regular grocery stores and both and tasty with hummus or cheese for snacks. Kettle Brand Potato Chips are delicious and most are gluten free. Rice is a good staple to have in the house and there are tons of varieties out there: brown rice and wild rice are the healthiest. KIND brand and LARA bars are at regular grocery stores and are good if you need portable GF food. Some of the varieties are better than others (Apricot Macadamia Nut KIND bars are really good)

At Trader Joes: They carry English Muffins that are quite good (but need to be heated) and lots of prepared food that happens to be good. Their one-hundred calorie brown rice bars (they taste like rice krispie treats) are really good and are a great portable food. They also have cocoa almonds that are awesome and gluten free. They have some frozen food that’s GF as well (like Taquitos) that are tasty, but the main thing to remember there is that they label everything really well and they will list allergens on each ingredient. In fact, when you get there if you ask an employee for their “gluten free list” they should be able to print you one (or there’s even one on their website I think)

In the next few paragraphs I reference many places near Boston, so if you don't live in the area it might not be terribly helpful.

At Health Food Store: It’s really easy to spend a lot of money at Health Food stores. The Good Health store has an awesome selection of gluten-free foods. I’d start with some pasta: Tinkyada brand is really good. Then, if you want to get into baking at all, pick up a “gluten-free flour mix.” There are tons out there and I’m not sure what GH is carrying right now, but Pamela’s and Bob’s Red Mill usually produces good baked goods. If you want to stay away from the cooking and baking, there are a lot of prepared foods in the freezer section (meals, soups, cookie dough for cookies, etc). They can get expensive fast, so beware. “Schar” brand bread is the best store-bought bread I’ve had so far and I’ve only seen it at Roche Bros actually. It’s best toasted. The Good Health store also has great packaged cookies, crackers and bars that are gluten-free. Let’s take a trip there together when I’m home.

While dining out: if you’re eating at a restaurant that doesn’t have a gluten-free menu, it’s sometimes best to tell the server that you have a wheat allergy so that they take it seriously. But a lot of servers now are knowledgeable about the whole gluten-free thing, so that’s good. You’re not shy, so you won’t have a problem asking servers what ingredients are used in food, so it’s best to do that if the menu isn’t clear. Ethic food is a good place to start if you’re GF: Thai, Indian, Japanese… all are not totally GF, but the noodles in Pad Thai for instance are made with rice (and genuine pad thai isn’t made with soy sauce), Indian food (except for naan) is mostly GF and Japanese (sushi) is a good option too – just make sure not to order rolls that have tempura or sauces on them. Some restaurants off the top of my head that have gluten free menus include: Legal Seafoods, Outback Steakhouse, Not Your Average Joes, Alice’s Mandarin Taste (really good Chinese food in Sharon, MA), PF Changs, Burton’s Grill near Fenway (they also carry Redbridge beer), Flatbread Pizza in Bedford has gluten-free pizza, Uno’s has GF pizza, Woodman’s of Essex (a fried clam place in Essex that has chicken fingers and horribly bad-for-you, but tasty food that are GF)…

This is a link to my “food review” section on my blog where I write about restaurants and food products, it might be helpful:

Have any more tips? Comment away!


The Chatty Housewife said...

If you are going to suggest sushi, you better add that imitation crab is a wheat product so you have to make sure that the rolls and sushi you order were made with fresh cleaned surfaces and knives or there could be cross contamination.

Same goes for thai, chinese, japanese etc. Make sure the chef's know that they need a clean wok and cooking utensils free of any soy sauce.

Another good tip is to stay away from foods that say wheat-free. Stick to foods that say gluten free.

Becca said...

Thanks for posting this. Even though I have been GF since last June, I sometimes need a refresher course. :) I'm very proud of your friend for warming up to the GF diet. Question---when you defined gluten-free I noticed you left out oats. I have been hearing more and more that oats is probably not gluten, but it's more the cross-contamination in the fields. Would you agree? I have not had oats since going GF.

Jen said...

You didn't mention anything about oats?

Liz said...

Great point, TCH. I avoid all california rolls because of this.

I think a general note regarding clean surfaces and utensils when cooking and eating out should be added. While it all depends on the individual's severity and reaction to gluten, I think making sure there is absolutely no possibility of cross-contact is important when you are first eating gluten-free.

Becca and Jen: great point! One year ago I would have said absolutely stay away from them, but I can actually tolerate them now (and really enjoy them). So, I'll probably advise her to try some gluten-free oats in small portions at first.

Thanks All!

I'll make the appropriate additions.

Marlow said...

Always, Always, Always keep a gluten free bar (LARA, Pure, or whatevs)with you! Fast food can no longer be a stand by in a pinch :)

Megan said...

These are all great tips! Thanks so much for adding on to the great list Liz provided me with. She is such a great resource!!!

nishit's world said...

My neice has coeliac disease and althoug she's on a GF diet, I'm always looking out for info. that can help her and this article is a good resource. Well Done.